Avertigos: South China Sky Preview

Theme and What is It?

Avertigos takes place in an alternate history wherein the forces of the Dynastic Naval Armada and those of the Singasari League have taken to the South China Sky in their powerful skyships to battle for supremacy over strategic islands and trade routes.  A unique hybrid of strategy board game and miniatures skirmish, Avertigos is an ambitious project that contains multiple options for play.  This preview will focus on the skirmish air combat aspect of the final product.

Gameplay Mechanics

The skirmish mode of play in Avertigos sees players facing off in their skyships in tactical aerial combat played with a recommend play area of roughly 2ft x 3ft or 60cm x 90cm.  The rules include three variations but the primary goal of each is to win more rounds than the opponent or be the last ship standing.  Players will select a pilot card and will have access to a number of upgrade modules.  The pilot cards illustrate stats and status of the ship.  Each of the pilot and module cards feature either a red, blue, or grey background depending on whether they are from the Dynasty, Singasari League, or Mercenary factions respectively.  In Domination skirmishes, the players or teams will take turns choosing modules from a common pool and may not use the same two rounds in a row.  In Faction skirmishes, players will have to build from their factions specific modules.  In the case of Gambler’s skirmishes, there is a point-buy system in place from which players will build their ships.

Each turn of gameplay turn will include an initiative, movement, and actions phase.  Players will roll for initiative between each other, which used for tie-breakers of the specific ship initiatives.  Ship initiative is determined by their height on the custom flying widgets and is indicated on the pilot boards.  Players will then enter the movement phase.  Movement is handled through the careful play of movement cards of which there are four types.  The cards are either Simple, Steady, Advanced, or Special movement cards and are blue, purple, red, and yellow in color respectively.  These cards offer special benefits in addition to the movement they provide and there are some specific rules regarding the placement order of movement cards.  Any card may also be played face down as a simple card.  Players may play a number of cards equal to their speed and any others granted by card effects.  A ship has more speed the higher it climbs.  Generally, a player will only adjust their height by one level per turn.  There are a couple specific maneuvers that can be performed.  Players may climb by playing one card less than their speed, allowing them to up one level in height and draw an additional card per height climbed.  They may also swoop or dive which temporarily increase speed by either two or three.  This leads to “over-speeding” which damages the ship.  This creates a risk/reward scenario and leads to dynamic aerial battles as players rise and fall rhythmically trying to gain the upper hand on their opponent.

When players begin movement, they may start in one of three vectors indicated on the base of their ship’s flight stand.  This allows some freedom to turn regardless of the cards in your hand.  Movement cards feature specific art to denote if they can or cannot be used as a starting card to begin movement and also if they allow turning or demand straight movement.  The solution for turning is particularly interesting.  Cards which allow turning feature small triangular icons in the corners.  All cards feature a lighter shaded area on the top which is the “turning allowance” and indicates the most turning allowed per card.  It sounds confusing in print, but is a rather elegant way to avoid specific movement templates.

Finally, players enter the action phase.  Players may choose to execute tactical maneuvers, load and fire, or repair their ship.  Tactical maneuvers allow a player to use action points and leftover simple cards to make specific movements they may not have had the cards to make during the movement phase or to delay a swoop or dive to avoid “over-speeding.”  The penalty is that, unlike in the movement phase, players do not redraw movement cards spent in this manner.  Players may also use action points to both load and fire their weapons as indicated on the weapon module cards.  Finally, any ship with a Bosun module may pay action points to repair.

Initial Impressions

The prototype miniatures have a really nice look to them and the height widgets bring an interesting visual dynamic to the table.  I’m always keen to see what things people are trying in new skirmish games both in regards to raising excitement, but also keeping in mind accessibility.

Quality of Components and Insert

The models and components I received were very early prototype and again I point out that I am only addressing the components found in the skirmish aspect of the final product.  The models were 3d prints but, taking them as a starting point, the final production models should look really good and have even better detail.  The upgrade pieces for the ships fit nicely and add both a tactile and visual component to the process of upgrading your ships.  Pictured here are the components to the full base set which includes the components for the strategy board game in addition to those for just the skirmish mode.

Artistic Direction

I like the art style on the player boards and upgrade cards.  It remains consistent with the designer’s vision for the theme.  The upgrade module cards are perhaps a bit simplistic, but they feature the upgrade in question and clear iconography denoting range and weapon load status.  The movement card art is suitable and is primarily cloud backgrounds on colored cards.  The subtle iconography on these cards for the designer’s movement system has elegance in its simplicity.

Fun Factor

I only had a small portion of the components available to me for preview.  However, the luck of the draw with movement cards created a nice level of tension and yet still rewarded tactical thinking and skillful play.  The height widgets do a great job of adding some immersion as you raise and lower your ships during battle.  It creates an exciting narrative which I think is really important in a skirmish game.

Difficulty and Age Range Suggestion

I did not see a recommended age range on the Kickstarter page, but I think the game could be played by children as young as 10 and certainly anyone 14 and up.  The skirmish battles require tactical thinking and the understanding to determine the best course of action given your current movement cards and action points.  Making the most of the height mechanism will likely cause the most issues, but the game still yields entertainment even in a single plane of combat.  The point-buy variation may also be easier for older children but the presence of other variants serves to alleviate this concern.

Conclusions

A photo of the base game in play, incorporating the skirmish battle into the greater strategy game.

Avertigos: South China Sky is certainly an ambitious project.  The designer has created a fascinating world with a unique concept.  The skyships are already quite nice at this stage of prototyping and the height widget and the mechanisms built around it could be a game changer in this genre of tabletop miniatures skirmish games.  There is a lot of information to digest on the various pilot boards and weapon modules and movement cards, but once you digest all of that there is a system with quite a lot of depth.  I found the movement cards particularly ingenious and an elegant alternative to movement templates.  I also like the ability to physically pop-in bits on your ship that represent the various modules.  As I have mentioned, this preview is for the skirmish mode of Avertigos only and is based on prototype components.

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